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Arizona Education: some special education students not required to pass AIMS

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Special education students with an IEP are not required to pass AIMS unless the pupil is learning at a level appropriate for the pupil's grade level.

Arizona State statute 15-701.01 spells out the following rules and accommodations for special education students:

If the state board of education adopts a competency test as a graduation requirement for a child with a disability as defined in section 15-761 or a child who receives special education pursuant to section 15-763, pupils with individualized education programs shall not be required to achieve passing scores on competency tests in order to graduate from high school unless the pupil is learning at a level appropriate for the pupil's grade level in a specific academic area and unless passing scores on a competency test are specifically required in a specific academic area by the pupil's individualized education program as mutually agreed on by the pupil's parents and the pupil's individualized education program team or the pupil, if the pupil is at least eighteen years of age.

These competency tests shall be administered to pupils in a manner prescribed in the pupil's individualized education program, and school districts and charter schools shall make specific and appropriate accommodations for pupils with individualized education programs. Pupils with section 504 plans as defined in section 15-731 shall not be required to achieve passing scores on competency tests in order to graduate from high school unless the pupil is learning at a level appropriate for the pupil's grade level in a specific academic area and unless passing scores on a competency test are specifically required in a specific academic area by the pupil's section 504 plan that is developed in consultation with the pupil's parents.

These competency tests shall be administered to pupils in a manner prescribed in the pupil's section 504 plan, and school districts and charter schools shall make specific and appropriate accommodations for pupils with a section 504 plan.

A pupil with an individualized education program or a section 504 plan who graduates from high school but who is not required to achieve a passing score on a competency test in order to graduate from high school shall receive the standard diploma issued by the school district or charter school.

What does this mean?

If you have a student on an IEP for a learning disability, be very careful with the wording when it comes to the section about standardized testing requirements. It is the language in the IEP, and the ability of the parents to be an effective (read ''pushy") advocate for their child, that will prevent problems if your child - through no fault of their own - cannot get past the standardized AIMS test. This is a ''high stakes" test meaning the student's diploma could be withheld without a passing score, or a documented exception. Special needs students are certainly no stranger to frustrations, so why take an unnecessary risks?

In Gilbert, only a tiny fraction of high school students are on record as failing AIMS, which means students on IEP's in Gilbert already are already reasonably insulated from the unforgiving, nasty, evil, wicked and ineffective AIMS test.

Sources: AZ Legislature, Mary Pat Wood with the Arizona Department of Education

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